Manila Bulletin – Marcos warns of possible misuse of coco levy funds

By Mario Casayuran | Manila Bulletin

ManilaBulletinOnlineSen. Ferdinand “Bongbong” R. Marcos Jr. chided yesterday the Aquino administration for its persistent attempts to take over the P70-billion coconut levy funds from coconut farmers.

“The moment the P70 billion is transferred to the National Treasury and to the General Fund, government can use it for practically anything,” Marcos, chairman of the Senate local government committee, said.

Marcos had committed to support a bill that farmers themselves have drafted on the utilization of the funds based on the roadmap that the farmers laid out for the revitalization of the coconut industry.

Government’s attempt to wrest control over the coconut funds, according Marcos was based on the recent call of Department of Justice (DOJ) Secretary Leila de Lima for the immediate transfer of all the coco levy funds to the National Treasury, including the shares in San Miguel Corporation (SMC) and their proceeds not yet transferred to the National Treasury.

De Lima made the call after the Supreme Court (SC) rejected the petition of United Coconut Planters Bank (UCPB) and United Coconut Planters Life Assurance Corporation (Cocolife) seeking to assert their right over a portion of the 24-percent block of shares in C, the food and beverage giant

On January 24, 2012, the SC ruled that the coco levy funds are “owned by the government to be used only for the benefit of all coconut farmers and for the development of the coconut industry.”

“If the government manages to transfer that fund into the National Treasury and into the General Fund, they can use it for practically anything,” Marcos said during a consultation with over 600 representatives of coconut farmers from Bohol and nearby provinces.

The consultation with the Confederation of Coconut Farmers Organization of the Philippines (CCFOP) held at the Bohol Cultural Center in Tagbilaran City was the latest in a series of dialogues Marcos has been holding with the group to help them in their struggle over ownership of the coco levy funds.

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